Cardinal Bevilacqua Did Not Get Off Easy

The Philly Post

Larry Mendte

I first met Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua when he walked into the NBC 10 studios as a guest on Live @ Issue, the Sunday morning news interview show I started. He was alone, no PR person, no entourage. The Cardinal was both physically and mentally fit. For a half hour he defended Catholicism, attacked then Mayor Rendell for his refusal to support school vouchers, and ended the show with a blessing for Philadelphia. He was charismatic, combative and impressive. I liked him.

This was before the Philadelphia Archdiocese sex-abuse scandal was exposed. Everything the Cardinal fought for in that interview was undone. The Catholic schools that he loved so much would start to wither and close as families started to question their faith. Bevilacqua himself started to wither and fade. When he died in his sleep Tuesday night it was the final resignation of a mind and body that had stopped working years ago.

The last time Cardinal Bevilacqua showed his combative intelligence was in front of a Philadelphia grand jury. He appeared 10 times in 2003 and 2004 and showed much of the same righteous indignation and defense of the Church that I had experienced five years earlier. Only this time, the Cardinal was trying to defend the indefensible: the sexual abuse of children by 63 priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

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